Thursday, February 23, 2017

We Turned Five!

This year over President's Day we celebrated our fifth anniversary.  We decided several months ago that we wanted to take a trip somewhere for this break.  We decided to take a camping trip to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  The forecast was reading sunny skies and warm temperatures, and we were counting the days and congratulating ourselves on finding such an ideal location.  However, as the holiday got closer the weather forecast took a turn for the worse.  A week or so out we were feeling pretty unhappy with weather reports for a gloomy, rainy, cold weekend all across the west.  Not only did the weather seem uninviting, but a brief perusal of hotel rooms in the nearby vicinity made us realize that everyone on earth seemed to be planning a vacation in the surrounding regions that weekend too.  Justin gave up and said that we should stay home.  I decided to ignore his advice and figure something else out.  I needed another break from Logan.  The winter here is dreadful.  After several failed attempts to find a place to go that wasn't going to break the bank, and wasn't already booked to capacity I finally settled on Miracle Hot Springs in Buhl, Idaho.  I perused their website, read all about their little dome overnight accommodations and decided to just go for it.  They were booked up, but the Banbury Hot Springs down the road is owned by the same company and they had a "bunkhouse" open for the same price as one of the camping domes.  The person on the phone reiterated several times that I would still be allowed to swim at Miracle Hot springs.  I booked it.  When Justin got home I announced to him that we would be spending Friday night at the hot springs, and the rest of the weekend in Boise visiting his family, assuming they were open to hosting us.  Thankfully Justin and my in-laws seemed okay with this plan.

Immediately after I made the reservation both of our cars broke down.  It's like our cars sit out there and conspire against us, choosing to have issues at the same time.  We got ourselves a rental car, but the only one that was available was a Jeep Patriot.  This was not our first choice, but it was what they had available, so we took it and Friday afternoon we set off for Buhl, Idaho.  We had just exited the freeway when Justin dropped the directions to the hot springs between the two seats.  He asked me to reach between the seats to see if I could retrieve them.  I couldn't, because my ring was getting in the way.  I went to take off the diamond, but accidentally pulled the wedding band off too, which slipped off and immediately fell into the emergency brake.  Okay, that doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was because it fell into the emergency brake.  I didn't even know such a thing was possible.  It was quite upsetting.  In the end the car rental place took it to a mechanic who ripped apart the middle console, couldn't find it and said that to continue retrieval efforts they would have to dismantle the brake at a cost that did not seem reasonable.  Additionally there was still a possibility that the ring had actually fallen out of the car.  We decided that it made more sense to just replace the ring.  It wasn't quite how I had planned to celebrate five years of marriage.  I guess nothing will say "I still love you five years later" like a new wedding ring. Besides, I'm starting to consider this an opportunity to replace it with something a little fancier this time.  We will see...

The good news is that I was able to get the directions out and despite a key road closure due to a collapsed bridge, Justin still navigated us to the bunkhouse at Banbury Hot Springs.  The bunkhouse was actually pretty great.  It was small, but so is our little family.  It's equipped with a space heater, so we turned that on to get the place warming up and left to go check out the hot springs.  I could instantly see why the reservation clerk had emphasized repeatedly that we could still swim at Miracle hot springs.  I'm sure Banbury is fine, but Miracle is much nicer.  We decided to go that route.  If you're staying at the resort the swimming fee is included.  However, for an additional $4 we could book an hour in a "private pool."  We decided that we should try that out, see how it goes.  So we did, and we're not sorry.  Now when they say "small private pool" they do mean small.  You're not going to be doing any kind of laps in this pool.

Ivan spent most of our hour quietly napping on the bench of our private dressing room.
The water was probably a little warmer than I would have liked.  Allegedly you can adjust the temperature, but we didn't really know what we were doing, so we didn't attempt to mess with it too much.  Aside from that, it was about 40 degrees outside and there was ice cold rain coming down making the warm water feel even better.  However, it was much too warm for little Ivan, so he ended up on the sidelines for this adventure.

After our hour in the private pool we went over to the large public pools.  There are four of them, at varying degrees of warmth.  Justin and Vivian spent the evening playing around in the coolest one, which is neck deep on me, and perfect temperature for small children.  Had the temperature outside not dropped into the 30's I probably would have taken Ivan in with me.  After the sun went down the whole place got incredibly steamy, and it was actually hard to even see what was going on in the pool at all from my spot on the bench with Ivan.  Justin reported to me later that the pools turned into a big makeout spot as it got darker.  Nothing about that is shocking, but the part that left us surprised is that these PDA offenders looked to be in their fifties.  Late fifties.  Not just one couple, several.  All over each other according to Justin.  There in the midst of them was Vivian in her little water wings splashing around with her dad.  
Ivan and his dad in the dressing room 
Justin and Vivian seemed to thoroughly enjoy their evening in the pool.  We finally left and got Justin's birthday dinner (I guess I should add that his birthday is the day before our anniversary) at what I believe to be the only steakhouse nearby, the Snake River Grill, and it was surprisingly good. 

Our night in the bunkhouse was uneventful.  It was situated out in the campground area, away from any other buildings or people, which did give it kind of a weird vulnerable feeling, but we kind of enjoyed the isolation.  The next morning we returned to Miracle Hot Springs to check out their resident alligator.  Vivian had been begging to see it ever since we'd made mention of it the previous day.  
that's one of the camping domes in the background.  They looked pretty nice.  

She wanted to know why the alligator was smiling at her.  
After that I took a turn splashing around in the pools with Vivian and we learned that the best time to visit these pools is early.  The pools were pretty empty when we first arrived around 9am (they open at 8am), and by the time we left an hour later the number of people there had easily tripled and there were more arriving all the time.  
In one of the smaller, warmer pools that Vivian liked because there was a bench that she could roam around on without having to be clinging to me the whole time.

In the biggest pool
It's not our typical vacation destination, but we definitely enjoyed it.  The subsequent visit to Boise provided a perfect escape for the holiday weekend.   I've warned Justin to prepare himself because this will not be the last time I drag him out to a hot springs destination.  I have already been plotting a visit to Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville, Utah.  I've heard nothing but rave reviews about the experience, and I can't wait to send Vivian down their water slide.  It's proximity to Logan makes me view it as a "must" while we are still living here.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

How to Survive the Winter

As mentioned in a previous post, we've been dealing with a bad case of cabin fever at our house.  We've been shuttered inside with a tiny new baby, a toddler who has been going kind of crazy, and freezing temperatures outside.  A visit to the physical therapist has me mostly walking like a normal person, from one side of the apartment to the other.  It's been driving me crazy, and Justin crazy, and Vivian...poor Vivian.  We knew the situation had become desperate one evening when Vivian started racing back and forth between the living room and kitchen at full speed while screaming at the top of her longs.  Justin stopped her and asked what she was doing, she looked at him, and without a hint of anything but sincerity responded "just running back and forth screaming."  Justin and I looked at each other, and right there I think we were both game planning a vacation, because this sitting at home thing just wasn't working out.    

The next day we took a quick trip to Orem to see my family, and give Vivian a chance to play with her cousins.  She loved it.  It was not a fix to our problem.  We had to return to Logan for Justin to finish up his last few days of finals.  We attempted to fill our down time with shopping trips, and...okay, just shopping trips, because 1. we live in Logan, and it's very boring there in the winter.  2. the limited indoor activities that are available to small children are germ fairs, and I can't send Vivian there to pick up every nasty little bug in town and bring it home to her tiny brother.  So instead we've traversed every single aisle of our local Sam's Club, and Walmart, and the entire expanse of the Logan mall.  The mall is tiny, and can be explored in it's entirety inside of a couple of hours.  I know, because I've done it.  More than once.  

We took Vivian to a live nativity program, complete with sheep and a donkey.  She loved it.  It was ten degrees outside, it wasn't all that exciting, and the best part was the refreshments afterwards.  We loved it too, we were frozen, but we were outside!  Only for five minutes or so, since the majority of the program took place inside the warm chapel.  We drove around the valley looking for Christmas lights.  We found some decent displays.  We loved it, because we were doing something besides sitting at home, but the kids...yeah, it was definitely the kids, were crabby and so it was sort of short-lived.  We came home, we booked ourselves in for three nights at the timeshare in St. George, and called my parents to announce that we would be spending Christmas Eve with them on our way back to Logan.  We called Justin's parents to announce that we'll be visiting them next in Boise.  We started packing.  Finals were done, there just wasn't any reason to stay in that situation.  I've decided the key to surviving winter in Logan is to leave Logan as much as possible.

We made our escape Sunday evening.  Justin had a couple of drill days to make up from missing them for Ivan's birth (I just get to have them excused since I actually gave birth).  Since we were in Orem for a few days, Justin used the chance to take Vivian to a BYU basketball game.  They returned home happy, thrilled really, to have been out and about having fun outside of the house.  The next day we headed to warm, sunny St. George.  It was not warm, and it was not sunny in St. George.  It was cold and overcast.  We spent the first evening settling in, and watching BYU win their bowl game in a downpour.  The next day that storm moved into St. George.  We are not that easily deterred.  We loaded up the kids and drove to Zion National Park.  It was cold, it was wet, and rain had not been in the forecast.  We had nothing waterproof.  However, Zion is always beautiful.  Always.  We drove from one end of the canyon to the other, and out through the tunnel and back in again, taking in all the waterfalls, and the colors that are twice as vibrant when wet.  We attempted a hike, but we had nothing waterproof to shield Ivan from the cold rain, so a short way down the first trail we thought better of it and cut things short.  

Ivan is a big fan of me.  He just sort of tolerates his dad...sometimes.

This was during lunch in the car, to stay dry.

Vivian was loving the experience
During this lunch break I went to change Ivan's diaper as he was stretched out across my lap.  It was all going so well. I was just finishing up when he suddenly experienced an explosive poop.  Justin sitting next to me in the passenger's seat was covered.  He was too shocked at first to do anything but just sit there stunned, and then laugh, and then use dozens of wet wipes to wash off himself and everything in the nearby vicinity that was doused.  My little Ivan looked very content and happy with himself.

Prior to our attempted hike. It was only sprinkling lightly.
We can't catch the colors well, this doesn't do it justice.

A little family photo. It was raining pretty hard, so Ivan is just a little bundle.

Raindrops on the lens, but the canyon was amazing in the rain.
Even in the freezing cold rain, and from the confines of our car, Zion is spectacular, and I still love being there.  It was still pouring rain when we called it for the day and headed back to St. George.

The next morning we got a late start.  This happens a lot with a newborn it seems.  We're ready to leave, and Ivan needs to eat.  We're ready to leave and he blows out a diaper.  We're ready to leave and he wants to eat again.  We're ready to leave and Vivian needs a diaper change.  It went on and on like that for a while that morning, but we were eventually able to actually leave.  We headed straight to Snow Canyon State Park.  My family used to vacation there when I was younger, but I haven't been back on my own, so it's been years.  Why has it taken me so long to come back?  It's more beautiful than I remember.  

Still no sun anywhere to be found, but at least it wasn't raining.
It was still very cold, with a strong canyon wind, but we bundled up Ivan and decided to take the chance to tackle a couple of very short, easy hikes.  The first one was a little slot canyon, with a nearby overlook.  

She was unhappy about the idea of returning to the car.
Next we drove over to the petrified dunes and let Vivian play around on the slick rock.  It was really windy up on the rocks though, so our time there was a bit limited.  

It was beautiful, and worth braving the cold.
We called it and returned to the timeshare for Vivian's nap.  During her nap I turned on the TV to check the weather reports for the trip home the next day.  The first weather report was not encouraging.  A few minutes later they repeated the weather with the forecast adjusted, and it sounded even more worrisome.  When they repeated the weather a third time the weather man stated that for people planning on driving I-15 in Southern Utah to a Christmas destination, "if you haven't left yet, leave now."  We debated whether or not this applied to us.  At first we decided that it did not.  After thinking it over, and considering the fact that we now have a 2-year old and 3-week old in tow, we reconsidered and decided that it did in fact apply to us.  Justin started loading the car.  When Vivian woke up we explained to her that there was a little change of plans.  We told her that we wouldn't be going to see the nativity with real camels after all, but we could still go see the temple lights before we started the drive back to Grandma and Grandpa's.  We offered her french fries for dinner as a consolation, and she was easily persuaded.  World class parenting.  

We cruised back to the parents on clear roads. We got in late, but without incident, and judging on some of the weather reports we saw today, it seems like we made the right choice.  As Justin pointed out, even if the storm hadn't ever amounted to anything, we have two very small people counting us, which still made it the right choice.  We're still not ready to just be stuck at home, so next up we'll recharge a bit, give the kids a break from their car seats, and then see if we can't find a break in the snow to make our way to Idaho.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Four of Us

On December 2nd we became a family of four.  This time we welcomed a little boy.  He came much earlier than I had really anticipated at 38 weeks and 5 days.  Vivian was late, so I was expecting to get at least one more week of prep time before my doctor wanted to induce me.  Thankfully, my mother-in-law arrived here early to watch Vivian, just in case.  She was only here a day when my water broke, and Ivan Wesley was born a mere four and a half hours later.  I don't really know what we would have done with Vivian had Michelle not arrived when she did.  I guess Justin would have stayed home and I would have gone in myself, and prayed that someone from Orem could make it up here to take over for him?  I don't know, and I'm just glad that was a bridge we didn't end up having to cross.

I've heard that boy babies are so much harder than baby girls.  Harder in that they don't sleep.  I told myself that if we had a boy I needed to prepare myself for being tired and crabby all the time.  So here we are a week into life with my tiny baby boy and, knock on wood, but we're all getting plenty of sleep.  This kid is such a good baby that he makes me rethink my earlier claims that Vivian was easy.  He eats well, he sleeps well, and he smiles.  I rarely hear him cry.  Okay, actually he cries each and every time I change his diaper.  Generally speaking though, in his waking hours he just lays there watching us, and making occasional soft little grunts and cooing noises.  He sleeps so well that I have panicked at the doctor about it and received instructions to wake him every four hours at night to feed him.  The doctor has concluded that my milk must be very rich, hence the long sleep hours, and that Ivan's gaining weight at an exceptional rate, and doing great.  We're just hoping that this pattern continues.  So far the hardest part about having a baby boy is that this kid pees out everything.  Everything.  I sometimes wonder why we're even bothering with a diaper at all, the containment appears to be extremely limited, limited as in non-existent. 

Now as for the rest of us, we've hit a few bumps in the road.  Justin is finishing up the semester.  We had hoped that school would be done by the time the baby arrived, but Ivan had his own plan.  So Monday morning Justin was gone by 5:40am, and thankfully Andrew's wife Kate volunteered to come up from Draper and spend the day helping me out with Vivian.  Tuesday we were on our own, and it went okay, but for the fact that I have this weird issue where my pelvis gets twisted.  It happened after I had Vivian but it's worse this time.  Sometimes it's very hard to walk and I find myself staggering about the house like a 90 year old woman.  I had to call Kate and ask her to come back to help out on Wednesday again while Justin was gone all that day too.  In the midst of all of this is poor Vivian.  Her world has been turned upside down.  She's trapped at home, inside all day,  sharing attention with a tiny baby, from a mother that moves like pond water.  However, Justin's classes are done, he's got one final this week, and we're already starting to plot out our escape options from the onset of a case of cabin fever.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bidding Farewell to "Colorful Colorado"

At last our summer in Colorado was coming to an end.  We still had a long list of things we wanted to do and places we had hoped to visit, but time ran out faster than the list.  However, Justin's internship there went well, so well in fact that they invited him back for next summer.  (We'll have to see how that works out with his ROTC training schedule.)  So we optimistically tell ourselves that we'll be back again next year to finish off that list.  It's a cautious optimism though, since really our plans for our future seem to be ever-altering and adjusting.  We're to the point where we hardly bother trying to guess where we'll find ourselves next, but rather just trust that wherever it is, it's for our best.

All that in mind, we knew that we had to leave as soon as the internship ended to head back to Utah and finish up some make-up drills before school started for Justin.  His last day was a Friday, and the way we figured it, that gave us the chance to leave Colorado Springs Friday and make one little stop on the way back to Utah.  We had wanted to visit Colorado National Monument, just outside of Grand Junction, for a long time, and this was probably our best chance.  I spent the last few days in the Springs packing and cleaning, and shortly after Justin was released from work Friday afternoon we cleared our apartment and said goodbye to Colorado Springs.

We spent the night in a hotel in Glenwood Springs that night, and the next morning we drove into Colorado National Monument, reassuring ourselves that this would really only take a couple of hours to do it justice.  My first thought on exiting the car is that it might really only take 15 minutes.  How did I not think this through enough to realize that it would be blazing hot in August out there in the desert?  I don't know, but it was miserable hot.  Truthfully I was feeling ready to call it right there, but I'm always grateful, after the fact, for a husband who is undeterred by my crappy attitude and insists that we forge ahead.

We found the trail head where several hikes we'd read about started, and after some deliberation selected a hike and started down the trail.  We were about 5 minutes into the hike before we realized that Vivian was in need of a diaper change and there wasn't a place aside from the middle of a sandy trail anywhere in sight where we could conduct one.  On the way back to the car I felt some irresistible urge to argue with my husband about the hike we were getting ready to do.  Maybe we can blame this on the pregnancy?  The heat?  The smelly diaper?  I don't know,  but he blames it on me being deaf and inattentive while he was trying to review all the options with me earlier.  Fair point.  Either way, we got the diaper changed, agreed on a hike, this time with my full participation, and set off towards Devil's Kitchen.

The hike proved to be a little bit harder than we'd expected, mostly because it was so hot out there, and I move super slow when hiking pregnant.  
From the trail head

Approaching Devils Kitchen

The view of the sky from inside of Devils Kitchen, just to show how narrow it was inside of there.

My people at the entrance.
 Once we got up to Devils Kitchen it was really pretty, and a very interesting narrow little sandstone feature.  However, I was pretty much terrified of letting Vivian out of the back pack, since there were openings in the rock wall that opened up to cliffs with hundred foot drop offs on the other side.  I wasn't totally sure that I could maintain safe control of my toddler in that environment.
Vivian sipping water from the camelback while still strapped into the back pack. 
Justin exploring one of the openings in the rock wall

He wanted to inch even further out to get a better shot of the scenery on the other side, but I freaked out and insisted he abandon that plan.

Justin exploring yet another hole in the rock wall.

Justin finally talked me into letting Vivian come join him, with promises to keep a hand on her at all times.

She loves hiking with him.

...and the feeling is pretty mutual.

Eventually Justin was able to talk me into making my way up to one of the bigger openings to see out the other side and get this picture.

As it turns out these two spent hours hiking around in there, exploring together.  Justin followed through, and held her hand the entire time.  

We stopped for a snack break.

This was a bit much to try and tackle with Vivian, so he made the climb up there alone.
After spending way more time than we had anticipated on a single, short hike, we finally headed back to the car, to continue through the monument on the scenic drive that skirts the canyon rims.  

We made multiple stops along the way, and basically took about twice the time we expected to make it to the visitor's center on the other side of the monument, where we had plans to stop for a very overdue lunch.  We packed up our food and went for what was supposed to be a very short hike to a picnic area, that turned into a long hike that took us nowhere.  Everyone was tired, hungry, and crabby at that point, and the feeling was doubled when it became obvious that we'd be best off turning around and hiking back to the visitor's center picnic area.  

Trudging back to the visitor's center for lunch
After lunch we loaded back into the cars, and stopped outside of the monument for our picture at the sign.  Vivian doesn't appear in this one.  She was so exhausted that we determined that it was borderline mean to wake her up again for this picture.

This is the phase of the pregnancy where I still just look fat, not pregnant.
After that we left Colorado, and made our return to Utah.  It's good to be back, but we're looking forward to hopefully another summer next year back in Colorado.